By Cynthia Ayeza, Uganda:
It is becoming increasingly difficult, and even annoying to respond to the many inquisitions about why I am still single. Forgive me if I seem obsessed with this issue. I do not mean to be single. In fact, I do not mean to attract these questions. Recently, a friend of a friend asked my friend why I am still single given that I am both “beautiful and smart/intelligent”. Can I just point out how refreshing that was for me? The thought that being both beautiful and smart/intelligent could be a major attraction for men, as opposed to the common and now stereotypical thought that men are intimidated by a woman who is both beautiful and smart/intelligent. What a relief. There is hope after all – assuming that marriage is very important to me. This brings me to what I really want to write about – elopement.
Elopement is often used to refer to a marriage conducted in sudden and secretive fashion; usually involving hurried flight away from one’s place of residence together with one’s beloved with the intention of getting married. Today the term “elopement” is colloquially used for any marriage performed in haste or in private or without a public period of engagement. Some couples elope because they dislike or cannot afford an expensive wedding ceremony, or wish to avoid objections from parents.
At a church I attend and the various ones I attended before then, for a couple to get married, it had to be announced in church for a number of weeks before the actual wedding took place. If there were/are any objections against the couple getting married, this period would/should then be used to bring such information forward. However, announcing in church a couple's intentions to marry has seemingly become a platform to show off and perhaps shrink even more, those single ladies that are slowly but surely becoming the stereotypical “old maidens”.
Elopement for me means freedom; being able to live my life, in agreed compromise with the person I have chosen, who has also chosen me – for the rest of our lives – hopefully, happily ever after. We all know that after the “I do” the real work sets in. However, marriage in general is a compromise made by two parties perhaps because as a team they would rather face life than as individuals/singles. Elopement even though seemingly dangerous because you might just marry your cousin or brother (thanks to adventurous parents sowing wild oats all over the place) could work well for all because it is cheap, uncomplicated and fast/quick/time-saving. In comparison, a wedding involving parents, the church, and long lost, near and recently added relatives, not forgetting friends and friends of friends of friends, could cost you years into your future.
Many marriages today start off with huge debts from the huge wedding budgets; huge weddings and lavish honeymoons – where more money is spent shopping. Why not elope and enjoy a small, cozy-personal experience with the one you have chosen and start off your marriage free of the tension that debt brings with it? In fact with elopement, you could have the wedding at your dream location – anywhere you like in the world.
I have considered the idea of elopement. I do not think my father would disagree with the idea. But what if he did, would I cease to be his daughter? Wouldn't he get over it eventually once I am happily married? What is so taboo about eloping as opposed to a huge “keeping-up-appearances” wedding where you say “I do, 'til death do us part” to a disaster waiting to happen? Lately, and this is no surprise to us, divorce is more common than successful marriages. But even more, divorce is proving to be more costly than the high-end wedding. Elopement on the other hand sounds like a realistic approach: people get to mind their business and you mind yours; you can choose whether or not to invite a witness; you can choose whatever destination for a honeymoon or not etc. Above all, you can start life without stress from unnecessary debts incurred as a result of wanting to keep up appearances.
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